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People behaving better.  Young children can be a prime example of ‘behaving better’, probably because from the time they’re born we’re constantly after them imparting our experience  and expectations upon them.  But what about our own behaviour?

Thomas Friedman’s latest article in the New York Times discusses the need to have sustainable values, as opposed to situational values (doing whatever the situation allows – think BP, Goldman Sachs).

values that inspire in us behaviours that literally sustain our relationships with one another, with our communities, with our institutions, and with our forests, oceans and climate. Of course, to counter this epidemic of situational thinking, we need more and better regulations, but we also need more people behaving better. Regulations only tell you what you can or can’t do in certain situations. Sustainable values inspire you to do what you should do in every situation.

He quotes Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN (which teaches companies build ethical cultures) and author of the book “How,” saying it’s even more important now for each of us to behave in the world, as we are all so interconnected.

how each of us behaves, consumes, does business, builds or doesn’t build trust with others matters more than ever. Because each of us, each of our banks, each of our companies, now has the power to impact, for good or ill, so many more people’s lives through so many more channels — from day-trading to mortgage-lending to Twitter to Internet-enabled terrorism.

I can’t help but think not only of my behaviours but those found in our families, communities, in our schools, in the workplace. 

What happens in our families?  How do we behave with one another?  Often, it is those closest to us that witness our worst behaviour.  Families take each other for granted, so can at times treat each other worse than we treat friends, colleagues, even our acquaintances.

Most people spend a great portion of their day at work.  What does your company value?  Do you even know?  Is it something sustainable?  How does your company behave with its stakeholders, customers, employees?  It is working from situational values or sustainable ones? 

I’m reminded of the 1986 bestselling book by Robert Fulghum, “All I Really need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”.   For me, it still stands true today, more than 20 years later:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t’ take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.  Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup:  The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. 

Gold fish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.  So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Having teenagers in our home, I can’t NOT consider my behaviour these days.   They can be very quick to let me know if my behaviours do not reflect my words. 

Dear daughter and I talk a lot about behaviours.  Perhaps because she’s thinking more about relationships (You think? Compared to teenage boys?)  and trying to wade her way through the day-to-day challenges they pose.  We have long conversations about what she might do in any given situation.  And there are a LOT of situations that come up in the life of a teenage girl!  I must admit, I think she handles her behaviour in relationships much better than I ever did.  Probably better than I still do today.

When I think about what I do in this life, it must also include my behaviour.  What is it I want to model for our kids?  For others?  Do my behaviours reflect my values?

Am I kind to others?  Do I talk nice about others?

Am I someone who is a quitter?  Am I a leader? 

Do I play fair? 

Am I living a balanced life? 

Do I take notice of the wonder and the world around me? 

Do I notice my kids? 

Am I okay with the inevitability of death?  What do I believe about that?

Yesterday I ‘lost it’  with dear daughter on the phone while she was giving me directions to her friend’s place. In fact, I did the same just a couple of nights before when she was trying to justify staying out a little later and moving on to a new location with her friends.  

I don’t always behave the way I should or want to.  Do I say sorry, when that happens? It’s helpful to have kids and my husband and friends around, who can catch me when I’ve lost the plot a little.   

I try my best.  Well, most days. 

Play nice.  It’s the least we can do.